Hydroponic cultivation is a modern method that allows you to have a greater number of plants in the same space. Often, only with water and nutrients dissolved in it it is possible to harvest, among others, delicious lettuces or tomatoes. On some occasions, however, they choose to plant them in substrates that only serve as support, since they lack nutritional value.
But regardless of the method chosen, hydroponics is an incredible opportunity to grow even if you don’t have a garden. For this reason, below we are going to explain what it consists of, what its advantages are, and much more.
What is hydroponic cultivation?
Hydroponic cultivation is one in which water is used for a plant to grow. In this water, the necessary fertilizer is added, since this way its roots will be able to absorb them and carry out their vital functions.
Therefore, it becomes much more dependent if possible on the person who takes care of it, because even if you choose to plant it in some type of substrate, this is the only thing it will do is to hold on since it will not have any nutrient.
What plants can be grown in hydroponics?
Not all plants can grow in a hydroponic system. For this reason, it is important to know that in general the small herbaceous are almost the only ones that are cultivated. For instance:
These have relatively short and thin roots, which is why they are preferred for hydroponics.
Advantages of hydroponic crops
Do you want to know what are advantages that hydroponics offers compared to traditional cultivation? Well, you should know that it basically has the following:
- More and better water is used.
- The risk of pests and diseases is lower, as they are crops that are highly controlled.
- It is possible to take better advantage of the growing, flowering and fruiting season of the plants.
- It allows cultivating even in tight spaces, without the need for a piece of land.
Types of hydroponic systems
As we have commented, the roots can be in water or in the substrate. But based on this, different hydroponic methods have been developed that we invite you to know.
Roots in water
These systems are based on keeping the plants growing directly in the water, which is the medium in which the nutrients will be added, and the insecticide products whenever necessary. There are several systems, which are:
- Aeroponics : it is a system that saves water, but it is more complicated for beginners. The plants are placed so that the roots are suspended in the air, and from time to time they are sprayed with water and nutrients.
- Floating root culture : or deep water culture in English. In it, the roots are literally suspended in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide to which nutrients are added. It is indicated for lettuces, aromatic plants, and ultimately, small plants, except those with tuberous roots or with tubers, such as carrots or potatoes.
- Nutritive film technique : this system consists of a series of PVC tubes that have holes in their upper part, separated at a certain distance from each other. In these holes is where the plants are placed, which receive everything they need through the tubes.
Roots in substrate
To get started in hydroponics, I sincerely think that there is nothing better than starting out with a hydroponic growing system with a substrate. In this way, you will have the opportunity to learn the nutrients they need, or which ones grow better and which ones don’t. The most used systems are:
- Wick system : it is the easiest. You only need a container that has a hole in its base, a hydroponic wick that we will partially submerge and that must be in contact with the roots, and water with nutrients.
- Drip system with recovery : it is the same as traditional drip irrigation; that is to say, the plants get their water thanks to a series of drip tubes, but with the difference that the excess water is collected to be used again.
- Ebb and Flow Technique : Also known as flood and drain. It consists of pouring plenty of water with the nutrient solution on the substrate. Once it has been absorbed, it is drained back into a reservoir.
What nutrients are used for hydroponics?
All plants need to absorb nutrients in order to grow. When what we have are hydroponic crops, we must ensure that they do not lack the macronutrients:
- Nitrogen (N): stimulates the growth and development of the plant.
- Phosphorus (P): it is also essential for growth, especially of the roots. In addition, it intervenes in photosynthesis, and stimulates flowering.
- Potassium (K): it is the macronutrient you need to produce fruits, regulate the absorption of carbon dioxide, and produce energy (ATP).
But neither are these micronutrients:
- Sulfur (S): prevents dehydration, and protects cells.
- Boron : it is useful for cells, since it is what stimulates cell division. It also intervenes in the development of both the fruits and the seeds.
- Calcium (Ca): it is essential for the plant to perspire. In addition, it holds cells together.
- Cobalt (Co): strengthens the seeds, delays the aging of the leaves, and in medicinal plants regulates alkaloids.
- Copper (Cu): it is necessary for respiration and photosynthesis.
- Chlorine (Cl): plays an important role in the opening and closing of stomata, as well as nastia.
- Iron (Fe): it is essential for the formation of chlorophyll, and helps in the production of energy.
- Magnesium (Mg): helps the plant to develop, and is involved in the production of chlorophyll.
- Manganese (Mn): it is important for chlorophyll to be synthesized, as well as for the division of cells to occur.
- Molybdenum (Mo): it is an important component that converts nitrate into nitrite, which is transformed into ammonia so that amino acids can finally be synthesized.
- Zinc (Zn): Zinc helps plants to better withstand the cold. It is also used to produce chlorophyll.
You can get the nutrients separately, or you can buy hydroponic fertilizers.
How to make a hydroponic culture at home?
If you want, you can have a homemade hydroponic system. Do you want to know how? Well, first write down what you need :
- Nutritive solution. It can be the fertilizer that we recommend before, or another.
- Rubber or plastic stopper.
- A plastic bottle.
- A plate.
- Scissors or knife.
- Substrate for hydroponics. It can be perlite, vermiculite, coconut fiber, expanded clay, rock wool.
- Plants or seeds that you want to grow.
Once you have everything, follow this step by step :
- First, lay the bottle horizontally and poke a hole in the center to put a cap on it.
- Then, on the opposite side, poke a hole or two in the bottle. That is where the plants will be.
- The next step is to make pots with pieces of plastic, the same diameter as the holes, and not very high. It is important that they have some small holes at their base so that the roots can absorb the water.
- Now, fill the plastic bottle with the nutrient solution, so that when you put it horizontally, it is half empty.
- Then, cover the roots of the plants with substrate, and then immerse them – the roots – in water.
- Finally, place everything on a tray, ensuring that the cap is centered. To attach the bottle to it, you can use, for example, zip ties or raffia ropes.
Another option is to buy a hydroponic garden. On the market, there are many models, made of wood, PVC, smaller or larger.